Before the 1996 election, George W. Bush’s presidential chances were just talk. Now they’re hot. Jack Kemp blew his opportunity to be the undisputed standard-bearer with a mediocre—and, some say, disloyal—performance as Bob Dole’s running mate. The next GOP nominee will almost surely be someone who hasn’t run for president before, and Bush has the longest list of assets: name, record, star quality, family contacts, fundraising capability, a bipartisan approach, and the monarchist tendencies of a conservative party. His problem: the GOP far right. He’s moderate on immigration (there goes California), taxes (he’s for revenue-neutral property tax reform), and abortion (he’s anti, but with several exceptions). Some say that being a Texan is a liability as well, pointing to the collapse of Phil Gramm’s campaign, but there’s one big difference: People like Bush. So far, Bush’s competition is shaping up to be the usual suspects (governors John Engler of Michigan and Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey, Senator John McCain of Arizona, Colin Powell) and a dark horse, Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee, whose most attractive qualification—not to be sneezed at by those who still pine for Ronald Reagan—is that he’s an ex-actor.